John Milton – “Paradise Lost” Book 2 (ctd.)

Moloch continues his speech. “We cannot be any worse off than we are now, unless we are completely destroyed, and that is preferable to our present condition. Anyway, even if we lose, we are going to have the satisfaction of giving our enemy trouble.” When he ends, Belial rises to speak. He seems graceful and dignified “but all was false and hollow”; his honeyed words lead others astray but he is “to vice industrious, but to nobler deeds/Timorous and slothful”. Accordingly, he advises to desist with declaring an open war. The reasons that Moloch puts forward, desperation, is the one that dissuades him most. Any revenge that Moloch dreams of is impossible because Heaven is well-guarded, and even if they managed to push past the first defense, the pure ethereal substance of Heaven would soon expel them. Complete anihilation is not preferable to their present condition, because who of them would like to give up their “intellectual being”, even if their life is now full of pain. As for the argument “it can’t get any worse”, of course it can, just remember when you were chained and drifting on this burning lake. Imagine the fires of Hell increase sevenfold, or we are chained each to a rock while the fiery tempest rains on us. In comparison with that, our present condition – sitting here, disputing and in arms – seems quite comfortable.

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